For a moment, let’s consider those who came before us. Who or what compelled you to place your first seed in the warm earth? Was it a parent or grandparent? Did you once visit a famous garden like Montrose in North Carolina or Stourhead in Wiltshire, England? Did you read one of Christopher Lloyd’s many books like the amazing Chistopher Lloyd’s Garden Flowers: Perennials, Bulbs, Grasses, Ferns, or how about his friend, Beth Chatto’s, mind blowing Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden: Drought-Resistant Planting Through the Year. By the way, you know you’ve made it when your name is part of the book’s title.
Are you more politically minded? Are you concerned about an upcoming food crisis, or is the preservation of the environment (water or land) your first consideration?
Perhaps, you grew up in a house where preserving food was just part of the landscape per se.
Did you lose your heart to a particular plant: flower, fruit or vine? Long ago, I lost mine to roses and later, daylilies which isn’t such a bad way to go.
Brooke from WebGarden asked me to write a post for her website profiling my garden and experiences.
I’ve written before of my Grandma Nita, but otherwise, my childhood was basically devoid of plants, and in my opinion, much of that which was beautiful. My parents had little disposable income, and they spent it on the essentials. Mom worked with my father, and by the time she finished running a recreation center (pool hall) all day, made meals and did laundry, she was spent. She didn’t have the inclination or energy to place a Mason jar of wildflowers on the table.
I do wonder if things would have been different if she had, for beauty is the language of God.
Once or twice a year we visited my grandparents in northeastern Oklahoma (paternal) and southern Missouri (maternal). Both grandmothers loved to grow things. Grandma Nita was the food producer partly because my grandfather, Elbert, didn’t let her have many flowers. Granny, or Margaret as I like to think of her now, was the African violet queen. She also reigned over numerous other tender houseplants. I’ve just begun to cherish her talent for growing things indoors.
From both dear ladies, I learned a lot about plants.
At home, without any land to fuel my dreams, I drifted into houseplants myself and their supporting macrame hangers. I loved tying those knots, and my mom did too, so it was a way we could do something together.
Meanwhile, I didn’t know I wanted to be a gardener. Like many thirteen year old girls, I preferred the occupation of a romantic heroine preferably in a bucolic setting, even better in England with some visits to Venice and France for edification. Boy, did I ever live in my head.
Physically, I lived in Oklahoma in the center of the U.S. and not in an 18th Century landscape painting by John Constable. Being a dreamer and one whose dreams consisted of countryside manors, I often felt I didn’t fit in with the rest of my family. For example, when I read a biography on Marie Antoinette I wasn’t interested in court life. Oh, no, like her, I wanted to remain in the countryside with the plants, sheep and more comfortable clothes (sans corsets).
I used to paint and draw, and I was always tempted by certain themes. Unfortunately, I’m not very good, so I couldn’t take the artist route. Still, the good Lord has a plan for all of us, and I eventually ended up where my dreams began, only with an Oklahoma twist.
No manor house, but instead, a rambling log house with equally rambling gardens, chickens, two great Labs (and an interloper) and two fine cats. Once I got my own home, I went a bit extreme and then kept adding beds and borders even as recently as last fall. However, the puppy is demolishing that garden piece by piece so he is helping me edit the design.
Luckily, Bill is supportive and more. He actually likes the gardens as much as I do as long as he isn’t forced to weed. He’ll build anything, and he understands scale which is helpful. He also think arbors are great. He is unique because he is a rough and tumble builder with a romantic’s soul (far more romantic than I).
Now, enough about me. What influenced you to build your garden? Either comment here, or feel free to write about it on your space. I’d love to read about your inspiration.
Oh, and if you’d like, I have a post over at the new Lowe’s Garden Grow Along blog. Let me know what you think of the new design will you? I also write for Fiskars, and the living Christmas tree post is now up.
Dee, my grandmothers that liked to garden. One gardened very casually with a few flowers and some vegetables, and the other raised prize blooms for entering in the flower show. The main thing was that I loved being outside with both of them, watching them caring for their plants. My mother didn’t inherit their interest but I did! Just this year I decided that since my grandmother grew dahlias, I should try it. We’ll see how that goes.
Love your blog!
I cannot remember not gardening in my 47 years. Be it fields of wheat, an acre vegetable garden or herbs on my window sill, I have always loved everything garden. In my twenties, I loved the romantic English garden and tried to grow every flower in the video “English cottages and country gardens”. In my thirties, I wanted to have all the flowers that Gertrude Jekyll loved, but found that many of the seeds could not be bought. In my early forties, I decided to get grow all the food I could for my family on our city plot in Oklahoma and marveled at the people at The path to Freedom on youtube. Then you blogged about Ruth Stouts and her video on youtube and I have been changed forever. 8 bails of straw latter and I still love everything garden.
That would be my Grandmother who passed along the garden obsession to me. I did a whole post about it a couple of years ago. Here’s the post if you’re interested, http://perennialgardener.wordpress.com/2008/06/05/grandmas-garden/
I sometimes find it hard to write about what got me interested in gardening, who influenced me. Obviously, it was my father who let me help him in his garden, from the beginning. I always loved it, and would go with him to garden centers and greenhouses whenever I could. Funny, though, that my siblings all had the same opportunity to garden, yet some of them don’t.
Great post- and thought provoking! Loved your story. I started out for the beauty of flowers, went wild for veggies, began wildlife gardening and my current goal is to combine all those into a landscape that is “larrapin” (delicious) for everyone: birds, bees, butterflies, the eyes and appetites of the gardeners as well. I can’t imagine gardening now, without being surround by the sounds of birds and bees and butterfly wings.
Stephanie Suesan Smith @vegetable gardening says
Lovely stories, Dee.
My Dad always had a vegetable garden growing up. I would beg to help him and as soon as I could, he would let me. We grew onions, black eyed peas, peppers, tomatoes, and all the usual vegetables. Dad’s mother had such a green thumb she could plant a stick and it would grow. She had ornamental houseplants everywhere. My mother’s mother had a subsistence garden growing up, and would not grow one when I knew her because she associated it with being poor. Mom grows flowers, but vegetables are my gift.
Dee : )
So many of these gardeners had grandparents or parents that influenced them profoundly with gardening and plants.
I was not one of those lucky people .. although a tiny smattering from an “English” neighbor who built a bit of a wild garden around their house .. I would go alone and sit on the bench and love the look .. plus that is where I fell in love with pea gravel I think ! LOL
My great aunt Maria and great uncle Johnny brought dahlias and kohlrabi to my attention (I wouldn’t forget that : )
Mainly .. it is all self taught, for my garden .. reading and researching and trail and error .. a long road which never ends and that is nice to know .. who would want to stop learning about this craft and love of nature.
It is interesting to read about other people’s stories and how they were influenced .. or not ? LOL
Joy : )
Wonderful story, Dee. The photos of your garden are just fantastic.
I come from a long line ( I mean real long -back to 1700’s ) of Irish immigrant farmers who worked the land in North Carolina and Alabama. I can’t remember not gardening when growing up as chores were assigned to us at a very early age and one of mine was tending the vegetable garden, no small chores when your life depends on it.
My father was my biggest influence . He had a green thumb that was second to none and how he managed to grow cash crops on that red Alabama clay was nothing short of miraculous. The secret , I found out later on, was cotton burr compost which is now sold by the bag at better garden centers.
Just discovered you by way of Sharon Lovejoy’s blog…you are a delight to find too!
Hmmm – what influenced me? My paternal Grammy who grew roses and had cherry trees (she made the best cherry pie ever) and my maternal Grandma who was a farm wife and had a huge vegetable garden out of necessity to feed everyone. Next biggest influence – Jim Crockett and his Victory Garden – I still miss him so much. Thanks for such a great question. Have a lovely weekend.
I really enjoyed your story and influences. Sadly, no one in my family had the gardening bug, I started very young because of a love of all things living, animals and plants. I chose to grow food and flowers along side the caretakers on my grandfather’s estate. I guess I learned from them.
My husband’s parents and my parents both grew vegetable gardens when we were growing up. So they were our greatest influence in gardening. We love to grow our on food and preserve it. I think more people are catching on to the idea. And that’s a good thing.
Thanks for this great post!
Have a nice weekend.
I really enjoyed reading your influences, no wonder gardening is special to you. I also came from a family of gardeners, many of them grew much of their own produce, it was just something people did. Many of my relative’s gardens were also full of ornamentals that were grown for the pure beauty of them. They were often cut and brought into the house. However, my other big influence was a chilhood spent in the woods, fields, marshes and seashores where Mother nature gardened. Sadly, so few children today have the opportunities I enjoyed.
I never realized that I could choose not to garden. All of the women in my family gardened, and on the Sicilian side, all of the men did too. Great post!
Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence says
What a lovely story Dee! H.
Dana Nichols says
Thanks for sharing this post. I always love a good story.
For Nick and I both, I think gardening and planting came out of necessity.
His maternal grandparents were farmers in Caddo County. My grandparents on both sides were growing food for feeding families. My maternal grandmother had a love for flowers also. I have spoken of her roses that I now have in my front bed. Also, there is nothing like fresh food from the garden and once you have tasted such pleasures you are addicted to the pursuit!
Lisa Davis says
My dad and I would garden together. After he passed away, it became time in the garden to reflect on our great times together. My grandparents, gardened as well. Mammaw always canned whatever Pappaw planted and grew. We still have blackberry plants from his garden. Thanks for bringing up fond memories.
Mr. McGregor's Daughter says
My story isn’t that interesting or romantic. Your grandmothers sound like wonderful, creative women. Their influence continues to spread as you spread the word.
Lisa at Greenbow says
I enjoy reading about how peopel come to garden. It is funny that you ask. I just found a photo of my Mother and I standing beside her garden many moons ago. I will dig it out again and see what I can come up with.
What a really lovely post~a delight to read about your early years~I think we might have been similar as kids. My head was in books and romantic stories with heros and heroines were the best escapism for a shy girl!
Earliest photos of me and my sisters were all taken on a farm my dad and mom had in Illinois. They weren’t there long, but, those early influences remained with me. My mom was a city girl through and through; never cared for gardening; hated to be uncomfortable~preferred a/c to fresh air. Despite that role modeling, all of her daughters loved gardening! It’s impossible for me to imagine not having a garden.
What a fun idea! I feel like I’ve had a lot of gardening influences from my family. My Grandpa Elzer was a farmer. My Grandma and Grandpa Inman always had big flower gardens at each of their houses. My mom loved to garden, and also had big perennial beds.
I think it all became a full-blown obsession when I went with my grandma to the 5&10 store in Boonville, IN, and got some buckets and seed packets and planted them and took them home. We had a wet bar area with a south facing window that my family didn’t use, so I took it over as my “greenhouse.” It did, at points, get a little out of control, but from that time on, I was hooked!
The first Public Garden I ever visited was Bellingrath Gardens in Alabama. That started my interest in botanical gardens.